Calls for birth trauma injuries to be addressed across Australia

29th May 2024

All Australian states and territories should fund the resources needed to better address the risks and consequences of birth trauma, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance, following the NSW Select Committee on Birth Trauma releasing its recommendations today.

“We welcome this NSW report and the extensive recommendations made by the committee. It is a step in the right direction for recognising that the current model in NSW is contributing to preventable birth trauma, the impacts of which are far-reaching,” said Kasarne Burgan, spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) and a practicing lawyer.

“We encourage the NSW Government to adopt the recommendations and we urge all other jurisdictions to inquire into and fund the necessary resources to address birth trauma.

“When the trust between a woman in labour and her medical providers is broken, and when women giving birth are left feeling powerless and without agency, there can be truly devastating consequences.

“A lack of continuity of care and breaches of the duty of care during birth can result in significant injury to women giving birth: physical trauma, psychological trauma, or a combination of both. The effects of birth trauma can be devastating and debilitating for women and their families, resulting in the need for treatment and further time off work.”

The NSW Select Committee on Birth Trauma handed down its final report today arising from its inquiry. The Committee received over 4,000 submissions, including the ALA’s submission, and it held six public hearings across NSW.

The ALA is made up of legal professionals who represent people who have been injured due to negligence.

“We are seeing more and more people reaching out for legal assistance after experiencing the effects of birth trauma. It is concerningly common for women to report that they were not given any choice as to the mode of delivery of their baby, and not properly advised of the risks of instrumental delivery, in particular the use of forceps that are well known to the medical profession to increase the risk of maternal injury,” said Ms Burgan.

“Recommendations made in the NSW report include investing in and expanding midwifery continuity of care models; addressing the specific needs of diverse communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies; and implementing policies that help respect women’s choices, providing for women to be properly advised about their choices and the risks and benefits of those choices.

“Clear, respectful communication along with the provision of trauma-informed, culturally appropriate care will improve outcomes for women giving birth and their support networks. It will empower women to make informed choices and provide consent based on being informed – not based on being afraid or intimidated.

“All of the Select Committee’s recommendations should be adopted by the NSW and other state and territory governments, as this will help ensure that women giving birth in NSW are better supported and more likely to have a positive birthing experience.”

Tags: NSW Medical negligence